Zimmerman: Pelini needs to stay at NU

I know that negatives are stacking up against Bo Pelini in what some believe are his final stages as Nebraska's head football coach.

The blowout losses, the recruiting misses and, of course, the private recording that shared his opinion on a minority of Cornhusker fans are just fueling the fire.
Yeah, there's a few in the state calling for his head. After a tough 34-23 loss on the road to Minnesota last week, I've noticed some fans overreact and mail in the season.

It's ridiculous considering the Huskers (5-2, 2-1) found themselves in the exact same spot a year ago before winning out the rest of their regular season games en route to a Big Ten championship appearance. All of that is still on the table, and the mission begins today at 2:30 with a home game against Northwestern (4-4, 0-4).

The Huskers could very well lose today, although the Wildcats are badly injured all across the board, so I think NU will be fine.
But win or lose, the faith in Pelini can't be lost. It can't be put on the line just yet. Not this game. Not this season. I strongly believe that the head coach needs to stay at Nebraska.

Here's why:

I'll show my youth here a little bit, but the night of Nov. 30, 2003, was very troubling for my 13-year-old self. I remember watching ESPN when all of a sudden, the ticker at the bottom of the screen lit up with breaking news.

Nebraska had fired head coach Frank Solich.

Nebraska didn't fire head coaches. Coaches retired, passed the torch. No one had been fired since the 60s!

After I watched ESPN for some time as they discussed the news, I went to bed and turned on my alarm clock radio only to find that the Solich firing was the top news story in the country.
Something didn't feel right about that.

Solich should have never been fired. Yeah, he had that tough 7-7 season in 2002. But he revamped his staff, adding Pelini. The Huskers had nine wins in 2003, and with Pelini eventually leading the team on an interim basis to a bowl game win, it all felt even more ridiculous. Solich did everything he could to turn the program right back around, developing a solid team, but it wasn't good enough.

With Nebraska, it hardly feels like things can be allowed to be just good enough. They have to be great, and that's OK. The high expectations need to be there.

But when did those expectations become too unrealistic?

Anyway, after a long search, Bill Callahan took over. (Face it, it took a long time to find Solich's replacement because Nebraska isn't quite the dream job for every coach, as some may believe.)

Callahan was later fired, and six years later here's where we stand with Pelini.

He has led NU to nine or more wins in each of his first five seasons. There are only three other schools that have won that many games each season since 2008 — Alabama, Oregon and Boise State. That's eye-popping company.

Pelini is just the 11th head coach in college football history to start his career with such numbers. He's also guided the Huskers to a division title in four of the past five seasons.
I find this next stat to be the most important, though. In 2008, when Pelini was hired, 18 other schools hired a new head coach. Since then, only six have maintained their jobs, and Pelini is by far the winningest coach of all those hires, amassing 53 victories.

We can't fire him because then we'll be making Nebraska into a national joke. A revolving door where coaches come and go and nine wins isn't good enough. That isn't Nebraska, and my 13-year-old self would agree.

We can't fire Pelini because who's out there that's better than him? Nick Saban isn't going to drop Alabama for Lincoln. Urban Meyer laughs at the idea.

Nebraska fans need to be realistic and understand that the job isn't a top priority for most coaches. Husker football is a top 25 job, but not a top 10 job.
Yes, it offers an excellent fan base, stadium facilities and historic records, but it's in the middle of the country in a tough recruiting zone. And now, it seems, one or two losses and the self-proclaimed "Greatest Fans in College Football" will turn their backs on you.

Not exactly a situation I'd like to coach in. It takes somebody special — Pelini is that.
With what he's been given, Pelini has had his teams perform mostly above average, and he has the numbers to prove it.

I point to this team in particular where his coaching has made the difference, especially given the fact he's working with the youngest defensive unit the school has likely ever seen, an offensive line without its best blocker and a senior quarterback who has been riddled with injuries.

I'd say that's pretty commendable. I'd say it's worthy of our support and patience. Problem is, though, I might be in the minority.

I hope that I'm wrong.

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